Sunday, December 4, 2011

BNP prime crew of 1971 perpetrators: Ashraf

Awami League general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam on Sunday termed the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party as 'prime crew of the perpetrators' of crimes against humanity and said the rightwing Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami is its associate. “The BNP is the main party of war criminals, and the Jamaat is its companion,” Ashraful, also the Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives minister, told a press conference, a day after the main opposition party demanded scrapping of the war crimes trial and release of the detained war crimes suspects.

Ruling out the BNP's demand, the AL veteran said that none would be able to stop the ongoing trial of 1971 war crimes.

“The suspects will be tried and the court verdict will be executed in Bangladesh,” Ashraful said recalling the ruling Awami League's pre-election pledge to bring the war criminals to justice.

BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed at a press conference on Saturday asked the government to immediately stop the proceedings of war crimes tribunal, claiming that the tribunal was “violating human rights in an extra-judicial manner”.

"The BNP has no confidence in this tribunal. It believes that in the existing legal structure, the tribunal is nothing but a servile, rubber-stamp organisation," said the former law minister at the press conference.
In response to the BNP stance, the AL spokesman said that the opposition party had long been covertly trying to foil the war crimes trial. Now they have come out from behind the veils, he added.

All the anti-government actions designed by the opposition are only to protect the criminals who had unleashed atrocities on unarmed civilians during the Bangladesh's liberation war that left three million people killed, 200,000 women raped and tens of thousands of homesteads torched by the Pakistani occupation forces and their local collaborators, he said.

The opposition party has engaged international lobbyists and designed various actions at home and abroad to foil the trial, alleged the minister.

But, the people bestowed support on the AL's 2008 election manifesto, and mandated the party to try the criminals, said Ashraful adding “it is a public demand and the trial will take place accordingly as many other people accused of war crimes are being tried in many countries across the globe.”

Ashraful said the country is now divided into two parts - one led by the Awami League-led government which has been trying to bring the war crimes accused to book and the other is led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party which is trying to save the war crimes perpetrators.

“You have to decide which side you will take,” the minister said expressing the government's determination to ensure a fair and transparent trial of the war crimes.

News Analysis : BNP In Its New Avatar

BNP has finally thrown down the gauntlet. After months of what clearly was a skirting around the bush, the main opposition party has now made its position on the question of the 1971 war crimes trial unequivocally clear. 

And it has done so at a time and in a manner that can only leave a whole lot of questions about its perceptions of the Liberation War in need of credible answers. Observe.

The party has demanded that the proceedings of the International Crimes Tribunal be put an immediate stop to because of what it believes is a violation of the rights of the accused on the part of the tribunal itself.
From the perspective of strict legality as also from its own assessment of conditions in so far as existing circumstances vis-à-vis the trials are concerned, the party can certainly raise questions about the modalities on which the ICT is or has been functioning. It is of course quite a different matter as to whether or not one agrees with BNP. 

BNP's argument that foreign counsels be allowed into the country to act as consultants to the legal teams of the accused is a point not entirely to be dismissed. If an accused in a trial, any trial, wishes to employ the services of lawyers from abroad, there ought not to be a fuss about it on the part of the local authorities. After all, it is the rule of law that matters. The search for justice must always be based on a plugging of every loophole along the way.

Having said that, though, it is rather a matter of surprise that BNP has not only called for a stop to the war crimes trial proceedings but has also appealed to the international community to exert pressure on the government of Bangladesh towards bringing the trial proceedings to a halt. The nature of the pressure is obvious: foreign governments must come into the scene to demand that the trials not be held, that indeed the ICT itself be decreed out of existence. 

This raises two very fundamental issues. The first is that BNP's demand for an end to the trials process is effectively a rejection of history on its part as it was shaped in 1971 through the macabre activities of the Pakistan occupation army and its local collaborators. 

The second is that by openly calling on the international community to come to the defence of the accused, in so many words, the party has not only called into question the system of justice in Bangladesh but has also patently invited foreign nations and governments to interfere in the workings of a sovereign state. That BNP has not, now or earlier, spoken of the trauma millions of Bangalees went through in 1971, that it has consistently made it a point to look the other way every time a demand for the trial of war criminals has come up, is telling.

Bangladesh's particular tragedy has been the swiftness with which its original ideals were sent packing in the post-1975 period. Where the liberation of the country in December 1971 was quickly complemented by a ban on religion-based parties, especially those which had cheerfully participated in the pogrom committed by Pakistan's soldiers, the advent of military rule in August-November 1975 saw the happy return of the old collaborators of Pakistan to centre stage, with horrifying results. 

That, of course, was preceded by a repeal of the Collaborators Act of 1972 in December 1975. It was then quite natural for the country, dominated as it was by illegitimate military regimes, to be pushed away from its secular moorings and into a clear rightwing path through a mutilation of the constitution itself. The height of irony, certainly, was the rise of a goodly number of collaborators to ministerial niches in a state whose birth they had violently opposed in 1971.

BNP's position on the war crimes trial will not endear it to the people of Bangladesh. Worse, it is among those of its followers who have taken pride in the Liberation War and who have not forgotten the sacrifices of three million Bangalees that it has now opened itself to ridicule. In a broad manner of speaking, by so blatantly and brazenly coming to the defence of the war crimes accused, the party appears to have now formally acknowledged what its detractors have long suspected it of. And here it is:

In expressing its concerns about the fairness of the trial process without at the same time taking public sentiment about 1971 into cognizance, it has consciously or unconsciously shown an outrageous degree of disregard for the feelings of the people of Bangladesh;

By overlooking or staying quiet over the doings of the collaborators of 1971 and indeed by welcoming them into its fold, either party-wise or alliance-wise, it has brought into question its entire attitude to the Bangalees' armed struggle for freedom in 1971;

Beyond and above everything, BNP's position on the war crimes trial reflects a clear shift away from the centrist role it has played in politics so far and into a definitive rightwing mould. Which begs the question: has it now mutated into a political conservatism that can only make its alliance partners grin from ear to ear in satisfaction? 

BNP, say the cynics, has boldly unmasked itself. One is not quite sure if congratulations are in order.

Blitz to publish info on foreign bank accounts of Bangladeshi nationals

Weekly Blitz shall start publishing detail information on foreign bank accounts of Bangladeshi nationals. So far information on existence of more than 1 million foreign bank accounts of Bangladeshi nationals have been detected in a number of foreign banks in Switzerland, Norway, Italy, Australia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates. According to initial information, almost 18 per cent of the total numbers of hidden foreign bank accounts are of Bangladeshi politicians, while at least two thousand accounts of Bangladeshi artistes are also detected. Bangladeshi politicians have a total amount exceeding US$ 200 million in such hidden accounts. 

In a January 9, 2009 press release, the U.S. Department of Justice [DOJ] said, it filed a forfeiture action against accounts in Singapore worth nearly US$3 million.

The agency alleges these funds resulted from a far-reaching conspiracy to bribe Bangladeshi public officials and their family members in exchange for favorable treatment in awards to work on public works projects. The complaint refers to alleged bribes given to Arafat Rahman. He's the son of the former prime minister of Bangladesh. The bribes were purportedly given in connection with government-granted projects awarded to Siemens AG and China Harbor Engineering Company. The complaint says most of the funds in Rahman's account can be traced to bribes received for the China Harbor project. That project built a new containment terminal in Chittagong, Bangladesh.

Siemens Aktiengesellschaft [Siemens AG] and three of its subsidiaries were charged with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act [FCPA]. They pleaded guilty on December 15, 2008. Siemens Bangladesh pleaded guilty to paying bribes of at least US$5.3 million from May 2001 to August 2006. It made these illegal payments through so-called business consultants to a variety of Bangladeshi officials. In exchange, the company received favorable treatment when bidding on a mobile telephone project. The complaint stated that the bribes from both Siemens AG and China Harbor qualified for prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act because the payments were made in U.S. dollars and flowed through US banks before arriving in Rahman's Singapore account.

Arafat Rahman Koko is now in Malaysia, where a large number of Bangladeshi corrupt politicians as well as dubious businessmen have invested millions of dollars in various business ventures as well holding accounts with various local banks. One of the former ministers in BNP led coalition government, Shahjahan Siraj, through his son, Opu Siraj has bought property worth US$ 8 million in Malaysia, while Shahjahan Siraj and members of his family have deposited significant amount of money with Malaysian banks. Another influential figure of Bangladesh Nationalist Party [BNP], Harris Chowdhury has substantial properties as well as cash deposits in Malaysia. A fraudulent multilevel marketing company in Bangladesh also has invested huge amount of money in properties and businesses in Malaysia through a number of 'directors' of this company. Similarly illegal wealth of Bangladeshi politicians have been detected in United Kingdom, United States and United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile, whistleblower Wikileaks is also going to publish information on accounts held by Indian nationals with banks in Switzerland. This was disclosed by the founder of this organization, Julian Assange, who now is under house arrest in United Kingdom.

Incumbent EC unable to hold DCC polls: Sohul

Reacting to a government call to hold elections to both parts of the newly split Dhaka City Corporation (DCC), the Election Commission on Sunday expressed inability to do so, saying its tenure will expire before it can hold the polls.

The government, the same day, appointed two administrators for the DCC.

Khalilur Rahman, additional secretary of ministry of primary and mass education, has been made administrator for DCC (South) and Khorshed Alam Chowdhury, director general of the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) administrator for DCC (North).

When journalists drew the attention of EC to a letter from the LGRD ministry asking for necessary steps to hold the elections in 90 days, Election Commissioner M Sohul Hossain conveyed their inability to do so.
“Even if we start the election process now, we won’t be able to finish the polls during our tenure,” he said at the EC Secretariat.

Besides, the new Election Commission, which will be formed after expiry of tenure of the incumbent one, may not follow their decisions, he pointed out.

Chief Election Commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda, who is currently staying abroad, will formally convey the EC’s position on holding the polls to the government once he returns, he informed.

M Sakhawat Hossain, another election commissioner, earlier conveyed the same inability.

Talking to reporters at his secretariat office, state minister for LGRD minister Jahangir Kabir Nanak admitted that his ministry was sending letter to the EC asking it to hold polls to the newly split DCC. 

Ignoring widespread criticism and protests, parliament hurriedly passed a bill to split the DCC into two on November 29. Now, the polls for the bifurcated DCC must be held within 90 days, by the end of February, 2012.

With the sign of President Zillur Rahman the DCC-split bill turned into law on Thursday.
With this move, the corporation constituted through the 2002 polls dissolved instantly. 

According to the Election Commission, the tenure of Dr Huda and Sohul Hussain will expire on February 5 while of Sakhawat Hossain on February 14 next year.

Meanwhile, talking to journalists at his ministry office, Khalilur Rahman said he would apply his ability, experience and talent to best serve the city dwellers of his areas. 

“The responsibility of an administrator would be huge. But I would try to discharge my duties properly,” he added.
Asked whether he had any involvement with political party or whether he fears there will be political pressure on him, Rahman said he will perform his job as a government official.

Govt appoints DCC administrators

The government has appointed two administrators to the newly carved up Dhaka City Corporation North and South.

The Local Government Division issued the order on Sunday amidst a dawn-to-dusk Dhaka shutdown enforced by main opposition BNP protesting against the split.

The Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) director general Khorshed Alam Chowdhury has been made DCC North administrator while primary and mass education additional secretary Khalilur Rahman will run DCC South until elected representative take over in a ballot in three months' time.

"The proposal to appoint the two administrators has been sent to the prime minister for approval and an official order will be issued once it is done," state minister for LGRD Jahangir Kabir Nanak said. He, however, declined to name the appointed administrators.

But additional secretary Khalilur Rahman confirmed of his appointment as DCC (South) administrator. "Khorshed Alam has been appointed as the administrator of DCC north. However, I have still not received an official order regarding this."

The appointments came after the president signed into law a related bill passed in the parliament on Nov 29.

The administrators will hand over power to the elected mayors. As per law, mayoral elections will take place in the two city corporations within 90 days after the appointment of the administrators.


The junior local government minister also said that the temporary office for the DCC North will be set up at the mayor's official residence in Gulshan.

"The new administrator and officials will carry out their activities from there. It will later be shifted to Banani Community Centre."

Nanak added that a 'lot of preparation' is needed before DCC activities can be carried out from the community centre, "Until then, all activities will be conducted from the Mayor House."

He continued 'good intentions' were behind the DCC split: "We want to deliver services at the doorsteps of the citizens. We do not want to decentralise the administration on paper only, and want to do something good."

The minister also said the government will see to it that that the split does not adversely affect DCC employees: "A meeting with officials and employees has already been called and we will sit on Monday at the ministry with officials and employees of all levels."

Nanak said they have written to the Election Commission asking it to hold mayoral polls within 90 days.

Election Commissioner M Shakhawat Hossain had earlier said that the time given to hold the elections "is not enough."

Canada won't deport Noor Chowdhury

Canada has told the government that it will not extradite Noor Chowdhury, a convicted killer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman now living in the north American country.

"Our government has clear policy that we cannot extradite people to that country where there is death sentence," Canadian high commissioner Heather Cruden told reporters after her meeting foreign minister Dipu Moni on Sunday.

"The foreign minister raised the issue and I will again raise the issue with my government," she said.

On Oct 5, the foreign minister wrote to the US and Canadian authorities to hand over the two Bangabandhu killers to Bangladesh residing in those countries.

Dipu Moni sent the letters to her counterparts - secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Canadian foreign affairs minister John Baird.

The Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family were brutally killed in Aug 1975 by some army officials and out of the 12 convicted, five were hanged in 2010, one died, six are absconding.

The death convicts Lt Col (retd) M Rashed Chowdhury is now in the US.

Col (retd) Khandkar Abdur Rashid, lt col (retd) Shariful Haque Dalim, Abdul Mazed and Moslehuddin are absconding while Abdul Aziz Pasha died in Zimbabwe.

Interpol has issued warrant to arrest them.

The five convicted – Syed Faruque Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, Mohiuddin Ahmed and AKM Mohiuddin – were hanged to death on Jan 28 last year. 

Tipaimukh plan to go ahead: Manmohan

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh has announced that India will go ahead with the plan of installing Tipaimukh hydroelectric project on the Barak River along the Manipur-Mizoram border.

"The environmental clearance for the project has been obtained and procuring clearance from forest department is underway," Manmohan was quoted as saying by The Assam Tribune.

Manmohan made the statement at a public rally in Manipur state on Saturday.
His announcement came amid protests from Bangladesh.

A section of environmentalists, both in Bangladesh and India, are opposed to the Tipaimukh project.
They say the dam over the Barak River would significantly bring down flow of water in its tributaries Surma and Kurshiara in Bangladesh. The dam will have a negative impact on the Meghna basin.

For the implementation of the Tipaimukh project, the newly formed NHPC, Manipur state government and SJVN will work together, said the Indian prime minister.

India's northeastern state Manipur recently signed an agreement with state-owned NHPC Ltd and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVN) on Oct 22 to construct a 1,500MW Tipaimukh hydroelectric power project in Manipur.

According to a BBC report, the anti-Tipaimukh movement leaders have said that though the project got environmental clearance, the protests of the locals were not taken into account during the 'Environment Impact Analysis'.

Voicing his protest for over two decades, R K Ranjan, a scientist from Manipur said that the Indian government should have discussed the issue with the locals and obtained their permission.
However, "the security forces did not allow the general people to take part in the public hearings for the issue," he said.

The BBC had reported on Nov 19 that the Indian state of Manipur had signed contracts with several Indian government agencies to build the controversial Tipaimukh dam on the Barak River, which flows into Bangladesh as Surma.

Sheikh Hasina said last week in the parliament that the government is fully aware of Bangladesh's interests regarding the Tipaimukh dam.

On Friday, the Indian government has reiterated to Hasina's advisors Gowher Rizvi and Mashiur Rahman that India would not take steps on the proposed project, which would adversely affect Bangladesh and added that New Delhi was ready to hold discussion with Dhaka on the issue.